If you were put into an MRI scanner (a huge donut-shaped magnet that can record the ongoing neural changes in your brain) and the word ”NO” was flashed before your eyes for less than a second some interesting effects would occur.
A sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters would immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain impairing logic, reason, language processing and communication.
Seeing a list of negative words for a just few seconds can actually damage key structures of the brain that regulate memory, feelings and emotions (1).
When you express your negativity in words or ever so slightly frown when you say ”no” stress chemicals will be released, not only in your brain, but in the listeners brain as well (2).
On the flip side, using words like ”peace” and ”love” can turn on genes that reduce physical and emotional stress (3).
The English language contains right around 750,000 words. Yet the average English speaking person’s working vocabulary consist of just 2,000 – 10,000 words.
In other words (no pun intended), the average person uses only about 1% of the possible words at his or hers disposal.
This is important because the words you happen to use greatly influences how you perceive reality. Negative words effects your physiology and emotions while setting limiting beliefs for what you can achieve.
Positive words have the opposite effect, reducing stress and empowering you to go after what you want.
Words can make us laugh or cry. They can bring us down or elevate us. They can literally wound or heal us.
The words we attach to an event becomes the event. They shape our beliefs about the world and influences our decisions.
You need to carefully evaluate the words you use in your everyday life and do your best to elevate and improve your vocabulary. You do this by getting rid of disempowering words and replacing them with empowering ones. Here’s how:
1. Catch yourself in the act
The first step is to be on the lookout for, and catch yourself as you’re expressing an experience in words. Become aware of the language you use. Is it empowering or disempowering?
2. Play down your negativity
If you find yourself emphasizing negativity toward the experience or yourself it’s time to start changing your vocabulary. We tend to make statements like:
From now on, use these expressions instead:
Downplaying intense words in this fashion is a great strategy to downplay your negativity according to a recent study (4).
3. Tune up your positivity
Just as downplaying your negativity can bolster your well-being, so can magnifying the words you use for your positive experiences. We also tend to play down our positive statements so if you usually use expressions like:
Now is the time to tune them up by using positive and powerful words to describe yourself and your experiences:
Please note that this is not a matter of distorting the truth and lying to yourself and the people around you. Quite the opposite.
People often have a tendency to magnify the negative and play down the positive. By becoming aware of your habitual way of expressing yourself you learn to communicate in a way that is both more accurate and empowering.
Remember that the way you talk about yourself (both in self-talk and to others) can work as self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you continuously describe yourself in a positive way your behaviors will start to follow. Keep telling yourself and others that you’re punctual and you’ll find yourself becoming more inclined to show up on time.
Catching, questioning and changing the words you put into the world is extremely powerful. Do your best to limit the negative and tune up the positive. It can literally make a world of difference in your life. 🙂
”The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
- Some assessments of the amygdala role in suprahypothalamic neuroendocrine regulation: a minireview. Talarovicova A, Krskova L, Kiss A. Endocr Regul. 2007 Nov;41(4):155-62.
- HaririAR, Tessitore A, Mattay VS, Fera F,Weinberger DR.. The amygdala response to emotional stimuli: a comparison of faces and scenes. Neuroimage. 2002 Sep;17(1):317-23.
- Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response. Dusek JA, Otu HH, Wohlhueter AL, Bhasin M, Zerbini LF, Joseph MG, Benson H, Libermann TA. PLoS One. 2008 Jul 2;3(7):e2576.
- Uncovering the Multifaceted-Self in the Domain of Negative Traits: On the Muted Expression of Negative Self-Knowledge
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